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15-year-old Danny Leyva signs First Team contract with Sounders

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After a few days of rumors, the Sounders have officially announced the signing.

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Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

Danny Leyva’s rocket ride through the American soccer pyramid has landed him a First Team contract with the Seattle Sounders. The 15-year-old has become the youngest player to sign a First Team deal with the Sounders, about six months after becoming the second-youngest player to ever start a USL match. Leyva followed that up with a stand-out performance during preseason with the Sounders — which included an appearance against Uruguay’s Nacional — and is the only outfield player to start all five of the Defiance’s games this year. Leyva is the club’s 12th Homegrown Player Signing.

The signing was first reported by Paul Tenorio of The Athletic, but Sounder at Heart independently confirmed that Leyva’s contract is guaranteed through 2022 with an additional option year.

“At this club we try to reward players that earn a roster spot within the group, and Danny Leyva is no exception. If a player is good enough, regardless of age, we will give him a look,” said Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “The coaching staff feels he is ready to participate in all First Team training, and if he continues to work and progress we will include him in games. I am very pleased with his overall commitment to the club, his training habits, and his ability to understand the concepts we are trying to implement this year. He has a wonderful opportunity to work with Gonzalo Pineda, who mentored Cristian Roldan as a player, and play with the many talented players we currently have on the roster. Danny seems eager to learn and is a very coachable kid.”

Leyva joined the Sounders Academy as a 13-year-old, moving here from Las Vegas on the home-stay program. By his second year with the academy, he was already starring for the U17s and came off the bench to help that team to the USSDA championship last year. By the end of the season, he had shown enough to prompt the Sounders to offer him a professional contract with the USL side.

“We are very happy that Danny made the choice to play for Seattle Sounders FC Academy and we are very proud to announce him as our youngest signing in club history,” said Sounders FC Sporting Director & VP of Soccer Chris Henderson. “Danny exemplifies the character our club looks for in a player, as evidenced by his willingness to do whatever is needed and by his pure passion for the game. He has a very good soccer brain, well beyond his years.”

Leyva started his Sounders Academy career as a No. 10, but has moved back as he’s moved up. He’s mostly been deployed as a defensive midfielder this year.

Chances are, the Sounders won’t be in any rush to play Leyva in MLS contests. But this signing does suggest that they may not see signing another veteran defensive midfielder as a necessity. Their midfield depth will likely be tested this summer during the Gold Cup when Cristian Roldan is likely to be called away and Jordy Delem could be missing as well.

“We’re going to take it nice and slow,” Schmetzer said. “He’s super talented, but he’s not going to be thrust out there in a game [if] he’s not prepared. He’s getting prepared all the time because training with all these other guys is huge for his development.

Schmetzer then compared Leyva to a young Cristian Roldan, who was 19 when he made his Sounders debut.

“Cristian soaked up all the knowledge, he watched and paid attention and Danny has some of the same character traits,” Schmetzer said. “When we introduce him, I think he’ll be ready.”

Leyva’s signing is about much more than the immediate future. Even if he doesn’t make his MLS debut for another two years, he’d still be the youngest player to ever appear in a regular-season game for the Sounders. This also gives the the Sounders at least five players signed at least through the 2021 season, as Leyva joins the likes of Nicolás Lodeiro, Raúl Ruidíaz, Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris.